For years I struggled with watercolor painting.  I had a lot of successes and, of course, a lot of practice pieces.  The practice pieces were not "failures" as every painting was an experiment or experience that preceded the next one.  But I was chasing a standard and expectation of what a good watercolor painting should be:  loose, spontaneous, fluid, and transparent and seemingly always with a recognizable subject.  Attention to detail (seemingly nearly the opposite to loose and spontaneous) was an option but for many watercolor-society membership shows it was, and still is, almost a requirement to win awards.  So I always felt like I was the racing hound running after the mechanical rabbit--never quite reaching the master watercolorist skill level of abstract Realism (https://www.britannica.com/art/realism-art).

Eight years ago I started painting in acrylic paints.  I discovered that I could not only enjoy the final product but also the process.  I could apply my god-giving perfectionism to the product if I wanted to and not feel as though I had missed a standard of skill or level of achievement in this medium.  I also realized that as I worked more in abstract and non-objective subject matter, I was more relaxed and calm in making the artwork.  I finally figured out that I was enjoying making the composition look good and visually interesting and not stressing out over making the subject look right.  This was a big revelation for me as I looked back at my watercolor experience.  For me, watercolor painting was generally about painting real subject matter as abstract and loose as possible. Acrylic painting was, and has been, about painting whatever I want--with or without subject matter--loose and expressionistic or tightly controlled.   I was, and I am, free to create whatever I wanted to as there are no standards to achieve in acrylic painting or abstract subject matter.  And when I enter any of my abstract or non-objective acrylic paintings into a juried show, the judges can only concentrate on the message (personal voice) or composition (elements and principles of design).  Craftsmanship and acrylic painting skills cannot be qualifying factors.

Take for instance the following painting that was recently selected into the 22nd Annual Arts in Harmony International Art Show in Elk River/Blaine, MN.  I am thrilled to have one of my paintings selected for this prestigious show with my first attempt.  This is not one of my favorite paintings as the journey to get to this finished product was long and arduous with this subject matter not preconceived.  Yet it has inspired a lot of positive compliments and the critical eyes of the judges for this juried show as well as an Honorable Mention in another juried art show this past June.   There is no question that this is an abstract paint with recognizable windows, doors and balconies. 

So why did this painting get chosen out of my 8 and the hundreds and hundreds of other artworks entered online?  The typical judging criteria of 'craftsmanship' would not apply.  Perhaps it was technique.  Yah, maybe.  How about ‘originality?" Yes, most likely because it was not an abstracted observation and it does represent 'personal voice or vision."  From the personal comments that I have received, it was probably the elements of design, especially color which most likely grabbed the attention of the judges.  If this was a real observation painting, not only would the perspective be more accurate (and boring), the railings and windows more proportionally correct, but the colors would not have been so bold and unusual. For my abstract art to work, often times my perfectionism can be problematic and not necessarily an asset!

Thank goodness to the pioneers of abstractionism, Impressionism, and Expressionism for blazing a trail for me and other abstract artists to be able to make our artwork and be understood, accepted, and appreciated by many people in our society.  And for many of you who are reading this passage and standing at the edge of the pool of abstract art, jump in!  You might just have to strip off your 'attention to detail' persona before you jump in.  You will not regret it.

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LOVE IT :>)--l

I agree with your observations Richard. I'm currently playing around with watercolour but I only seem to be convincing myself that it's not what I want to do. I do prefer working with acrylic and my genre preference is 'suggestionism' - kind of halfway between abstract and impressionism. A few nearly-recognisable hints to kick-start the imagination. I realised a while back that, if I want realism I can take a photograph. I very much like your painting - needs to be looked at a lot without trying to label it. Lovely piece of work.

Thank you, Alfred, for your follow up thoughts and compliment!

Alfred James said:

I agree with your observations Richard. I'm currently playing around with watercolour but I only seem to be convincing myself that it's not what I want to do. I do prefer working with acrylic and my genre preference is 'suggestionism' - kind of halfway between abstract and impressionism. A few nearly-recognisable hints to kick-start the imagination. I realised a while back that, if I want realism I can take a photograph. I very much like your painting - needs to be looked at a lot without trying to label it. Lovely piece of work.

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